Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wal-Mart Asks: How Much Energy Does it Take to Make Toothpaste?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) on Monday said it formed a partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project to measure the amount of energy used to make products throughout its supply chain.

Wal-Mart said it will use this measurement tool to initiate a pilot plan with a group of suppliers to look for new and innovative ways to make the entire process more energy efficient.

The pilot will focus on seven commonly used product categories - DVD's, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda - and seek to determine the overall environmental impact of products and look for innovative ways to drive energy efficiency.
Interesting. I like it. Can't wait until the day that the labels at the store include the environmental impact of each item.

The project plan of calculating one item in many categories makes a lot of sense to me, but I don't get why they are doing both beer and soda. They are quite similar from an environmental standpoint. Would have liked to see something wood based, maybe books or furniture. And while a vacuum cleaner hits the electronic goods category, I would rather see a TV or a computer in this category.

via CNN Money via Earth2Tech


Anonymous said...

In general the energy cost of a product is the cost of the product. The mint flavor in the toothpaste reflects the energy it took to make it out of its raw materials. The raw materials the energy cost to get them. The Labor cost reflects the cost to get people to work - which is a lot like energy costs. (The Chinese 18 cent an hour worker spends that on products that cost energy and the CEO of a fortune 500 spends her millions on products that used energy to make.) The carbon footprint of a product relates to the source of the energy. That is where we need to focus.


Fat Knowledge said...

Hi Charly,

I agree with you that we need to focus on making our sources of energy less carbon intensive. But, I don't agree that the energy cost of a product is equal to the cost of the product.

Some products are much more energy and material intensive than others per dollar spent. Obviously buying something like gasoline is much more energy intensive per dollar spent than buying a massage or visiting the doctor. I was surprised to learn that fuel costs only account for 4.8% of UPS's costs.

If there are two laptops for sale, one for $500 and another for $1000, I don't think that the more expensive one uses twice the energy resources even though it is twice as expensive.

And it is possible to spend more to make products less energy/carbon intensive. For example you can choose to buy electricity generated from solar power rather than coal, but that will cost you more money. You can buy organic food over conventional food, but once again it will cost you more.

I am not at all sold that the price of a product is a good reflection of its energy/carbon content, so I am glad Wal-Mart is undertaking this study.

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